In a South American country that has considerable wealth potential due to its many resources and industries, millions of people still don't have access to basic healthcare or adequate nutrition.
Hope is fading and apathy growing among Venezuelans, due to the low capacity of the state to provide social, legal and economic security. There are also great levels of polarization between young people, creating conflict.
What's more, limited access to safe drinking water in homes and health centers has contributed to the spread of Covid-19 and other diseases. The complex humanitarian emergency has considerably increased the number of people needing humanitarian assistance; older adults, women, children and youth in urban and rural areas.
Setbacks for young people in Venezuela
In recent years, young people are facing increasingly challenging scenarios in their work and their personal lives. Thousands of young people have had to stop studying in order to maintain their homes. Unemployment rates continue to rise, as do levels of youth participation in criminal activity; shortening the life expectancy of young people in Venezuela (Venezuelan Observatory of Violence , OVV). At the same time, huge waves of migration are being seen as young people head to other countries in Latin America, Europe and North America (UNHCR 2020). The majority of young people that have remained in Venezuela are apathetic, hopeless and lacking motivation.
In this hopeless scenario for young people, Venezuelan civil society (in this case meaning all forms of social action carried out by individuals or groups that do not come from the State and are not directed by it) has made great contributions. They are working to transform the harsh and cruel reality that many Venezuelan youths currently face. One of these contributions has come from the Chair of Peace and Human Rights, an organization attached to the University of the Andes. Their 2020 project "Dialogue strategies to build youth peace", financed by the Niwano Peace Foundation in Venezuela, explores the problems faced by young people, and generates new knowledge and ideas by encouraging young people to share their visions.
With and for young people
A field study that was carried out in four states across Venezuela included an analysis of various theories regarding young people building peace at the community level. The study used a participatory action research (PAR) model. Young people analyzed and created actions to transform their own community realities in a positive way. This project was an initiative with and for young people that allowed us to understand the perspectives of Venezuelan youth on peace from across the country.
The project contributed to the promotion of regional agendas for development and peace. It focused on overcoming the current polarized visions of the conflict in order to advance towards more integral perspectives of development and peace through dialogue. Formal and informal education was promoted in five states across the country through training activities. Two face-to-face workshops were designed per territory, where young people received training in technological and facilitation tools, as well as on human rights, the culture of peace, democracy and political participation. The general purpose of the project was to analyze the dynamics of the internal conflict among Venezuelan youth, as well as engaging in social mobilization for peace and the development of local dialogue. The hope is that these insights will be used to develop recommendations that would be considered in the creation of development and peace agendas at the regional level. In addition to this, the organization 'the Chair of Peace and Human Rights' carries out other peacebuilding activities, including a national course on the culture of peace. This initiative brings us closer to the professionalization of the culture of peace; educating us for peace to create new methodologies and insipire youth peacebuilders.
The Chair of Peace and Human Rights
The Chair of Peace and Human Rights has been running for over 30 years. Since its creation, it has been dedicated to generating proposals for the promotion, training and protection of the peace and human rights for young people. The organisation leads work with families, institutions, schools or other social actors. To achieve its mission, the Chair for Peace and Human Rights provides the following activities: permanent education and training throughout life; Social volunteering (support for social entrepreneurs); Public presence and advocacy (strengthening of civil society); Information and communication technology (cyberactivism for peace) and strengthening institutions. Our peace actions promote the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Manifesto for the Culture of Peace (2000). We seek to operationalize what is enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the UNESCO Preamble through programs and projects, emphasizing education, prevention and action among project participants. The Chair of Peace and Human Rights supports innovative programs, which create new opportunities and social services for Youth.
Through our work, we have supported more than 12,500 children, adolescents and young people in seven States across Venezuela. There are many challenges in building peace, and in continuing our work in the coming years to support young people in Venezuela. One of the challenges is to guarantee ensure coordination between the state, civil society, communities, the educational system and even parents and individuals. Our aim is to rebuild trust in institutions, strengthen cultural ties and civic activities, restore fairness to the justice sector, and promote inclusive education to connect young people with one another. We must empower them, improve their communication, increase participation and promote dialogue and peace.
In Venezuela, there is much to be done, yes, but the hope and desire to transform and build peace is present in thousands of young people. They still believe that peace is possible and that we will never give up. As young creators of peace, we will continue to believe in this beautiful country where we were born, always starting from the premise that peace is a process that is built and is not decreed.